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Florida Gators football team reports on Monday; Plus a UF basketball offseason to-do list

GAINESVILLE -- Plenty of Gators-related tidbits to touch on -- some newsworthy, others less than blogworthy.

--The football team returns to campus on Monday for summer classes and summer workouts. Meyer and his assistants aren't allowed to hold organized practices with the team until late July, so strength coach Mickey Marotti is the man in the charge.

According to Meyer, Marotti's goal this summer is make the team so tired that they don't have the strength to pick up a preseason magazine and read about how good they're supposed to be next season. UF will likely be a consensus No.1 among the Athlons and Blue Ribbons of the world.

Of course, if Meyer was really worried about his team's competitive psyche then the coach would say thanks but no thanks every time ESPN came calling. Does anyone foresee UF turning down the Sports Illustrated preseason edition cover shot just so the Gators will remain humble, hungry and unaware that they're supposed to be really, really good next season? Mmmyeah ... I don't think so.

Let's cut through the rhetoric on this one. There are two reasons why Florida's already talented football team will get even better this summer. Reason One: Brandon Spikes. Reason Two: Tim Tebow. These guys didn't return to school to lose their edge on account of offseason complacency.

--Only 10 days remain of basketball's late-signing period and the Gators have yet to receive a commitment from any players. UF coach Billy Donovan had hoped to sign point guard recruit Eric Bledsoe of Birmingham, Ala., but Bledsoe is headed to Kentucky.

Of course, the big prize is still available. Point-guard recruit John Wall of Raleigh, N.C., remains unaffiliated and Duke, Miami, Kentucky and Florida are all apparently still in the running. Will Wall choose UF? Does Wall's choice depend on the future of UF guard Nick Calathes? Donovan has apparently told Wall that Calathes is not returning to school next season. Of course, everyone else is telling Wall that Calathes will likely return to UF because he's not going to be drafted in the first round (if he's even drafted at all).

Let's assume Calathes isn't returning. (Because he probably isn't.) If Wall signs with UF, then the Gators might -- I emphasis the word might -- have a line-up next season that can compete with Kentucky. If Wall goes elsewhere and UF is left with Erving Walker at point guard, then the chances of UF competing for the SEC title are reduced significantly. UF's chances of signing Wall appear to be slim to none, by the way. 

Of course, I'm only assuming Kentucky will be the team to beat next season in the SEC. Consider this UK starting line-up: PG Eric Bledsoe, SG (Kentucky has plenty), C Daniel Orton, PF DeMarcus Cousins, SF Patrick Patterson. Pretty good, huh? Now consider this UK starting line-up: PG John Wall, SG Jodie Meeks, C DeMarcus Cousins, PF Patrick Patterson, SF (Does it really effing matter?)

Assuming Wall goes to Kentucky as well (but watch him do something crazy and sign with Miami), several things need to happen this offseason for Florida to even have a chance to compete for the SEC title in 2010. Well, regardless if Wall signs with Kentucky, these things need to happen this offseason:

1. Calathes needs to return to UF. Obviously, this is the most important factor. Unfortunately for UF, it's going to take a change of heart by Calathes for him to return.

2. UF sophomore-to-be Kenny Kadji needs to improve dramatically this summer. Kadji is the key, in my opinion. If the 6-10 center can break into the starting line-up, then that will free up Alex Tyus to play forward. The No.1 offseason goal for Alex Tyus should be making sure Kadji can play center next season.

3. Kenny Boynton Jr. needs to be a leader from Day One when he arrives on campus in June. He needs to be mean, tough and unrelenting.

4. Ray Shipman needs to shoot about 1,000 jumpers a day this summer.

5. Chandler Parsons needs to gain about 15 pounds. 

--Have you heard the one about a Pennsylvania high school football coach taking a shot at UF coach Urban Meyer? Well, apparently some people in Pennsylvania took offense to Meyer's abrasive personality during a Nike coaching clinic several months back. (Meyer wasn't aw-shucks humble enough for the Pennsylvania guys. Florida's coach also laced his speech with a few swear words.) The incident upset one high school coach so permanently that he is still taking about it.

I have to admit, it took me awhile to get used to Meyer's demeanor, but that's just the way the guy is wired. He's not very personable in certain settings. He'll never be a politician, but he'll always be a good football coach. And let's be honest here, what kind of pansy football are they playing in Pennsylvania if a few colorful expressions offends its high school football coaches? I kid, of course. But, seriously, a football coach accusing another football coach of being arrogant is akin to a newspaper columnist accusing another newspaper columnist of being opinionated.

--Florida's football team scored well in the NCAA's latest Academic Progress Rate. The Gators had a 963 out of 1,000, placing it among the nation's top 20 percentile within its sport. Here's a link to the Gators' APR "report card" and here's an explanation of the APR, according to the NCAA:

"Every Division I sports team calculates its APR each academic year, based on the eligibility, retention and graduation of each scholarship student-athlete. Teams that score below 925 on their four-year rate and have a student leave school academically ineligible can lose up to 10 percent of their scholarships through immediate penalties. Teams can also face historically based penalties for poor academic performance over time.

This is the fourth year of immediate penalties and the third for historically based penalties. Teams facing a third year of historically based penalties can be banned from postseason play, in addition to scholarship losses and restricted practice time resulting from a second year of long-term sanctions."

Here's a rundown of the SEC's football APRs:
Alabama 955
Arkansas 927
Auburn 949
Florida 963
Georgia 976
Kentucky 948
LSU 960
Mississippi 910
Mississippi State 933
South Carolina 929
Tennessee 949
Vanderbilt 969

Ole Miss' score of 910 cost the Rebels three scholarships. Maybe Jerrell Powe really can't read.

--Tennessee assistant coaches, including Eddie Gran, were asked to leave Pahokee High School earlier this week by the school's principal. Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin insulted the good people of Pahokee a few months ago when he intimated that its townspeople were poor and stupid. Not allowing UT's assistant coaches to recruit Pahokee's football players was apparently Pahokee's rebuttal.

I've got mixed feelings about this one. I understand why Pahokee's principal acted in this way but I'm not sure it was the right move. The principal of a school is not a politician. There is no need for this kind of grandstanding. A principal should only care about the advancement of its school's students. Why kick a representative of a university out of your school when the only reason that representative is there is to possibly offer one of your students a college scholarship?

--In a related Tennessee story, Vols coach Lane Kiffin is apparently still busy kicking student-athletes off his team. Eleven players have left the program since Kiffin took over last winter, including four players in the past two weeks. One columnist writes that Tennessee's attrition might be a good thing. In theory, Kiffin is getting rid of bad players and replacing them with winners. Of course, that doesn't seem to be the case. Last week, Kiffin signed a player convicted of taking part in the rape of his cousin. Disturbing, to say the least.

-jo-

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